Sunday, 2 April 2017


TAKING WORDS FURTHER– seemed on a clear, sunny day on Tuesday 14th March at the London Book Fair, a hope that might be achieved.

A cracking start at one of the first sessions on the first day with William Grill and Sam Arthur. One could stretch the metaphor and say with Shackleton they were not just taking words further and covering new territories, but were opening the way for new voices, with a non-fiction book winning the Greenaway.

Do Books Travel: Is There a European Aesthetic? a joint seminar with IBBY UK, the British Council and IBBY Poland, (Poland was this year’s Market Focus) chaired by Duncan Partridge, the Dir of Education, English-Speaking Union, discussed the role of pictures in translated books developing understanding of other cultures.  On the panel were: Lisa Edwards of Templar Publishing, illustrator Sara Fanelli (her 1999 Millenium stamp design for British Mail has 'literally' taken words further than most) Aleksandra and Daniel Mizieliński, Polish authors and illustrators of Maps fame whose detailed and curious illustrations genuinely take words further in a celebration of the world, from immense mountains to tiny insects and everything in between and finally Marta Ignerska, Polish illustrator and three-times winner of the Bologna Ragazzi Award. 

The overarching message from the illustrators suggested that even when children can't read the foreign words, just looking at pictures from other places enriched their sensitivity and empathy towards others.

In keeping with the theme of Taking Words Further Julia Eccleshare Children’s Director of the Hay Festival, presented Aarhus 39: Celebrating Europe’s Best Emerging Writers with Daniel Hahn and authors, Katherine Rundell (on left below next to Julia) and Sarah Crossan (sorry Sarah not seen, there was a head in the way)

Aarbus 39 is a collection of the best emerging writers for young people from across Europe under the age of 39. The panellists discussed the art of writing for children, and how reading stories of lives lived in other countries could influence a new generation with understanding and empathy. The writers chosen and edited by Daniel Hahn, wrote stories around the theme of ‘Journey’ and the anthology will be published in English by Alma Books and in Danish by Gyldendal later this year. 

A lively session Story and Illustration: Ways to Create Unique Children’s Books with Pam Dix (Chair of IBBY, UK) talking to three writer/illustrators from the Baltic countries – Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania – who spoke of their experiences with writing and illustrating their own stories as well as collaborating with other writers.

Rūta Briede, (on left) from Latvia said she preferred illustrating other people’s work because it gave her a break from the incredible intensity of continually being inside her own head, when illustrating her own work. 

Piret Raud (middle) from Estonia has illustrated more than 40 books and written and illustrated 9 of her own, including the wonderful Mister Bird’s Story who finds a life of building nests and singing in a choir too boring, so leaves the forest to experience life as a carrot, a pillow, a hedgehog etc and finds a bird’s life is not too bad after all. Though her story of a princess who smokes, and ends with her marrying a cat and still smoking, perhaps suggests that not all stories from other countries travel easily. 

The most charming Kęstutis Kasparavičius, author and illustrator from Lithuania whose books have been translated into 26 languages, and who has been selected for the Bologna Illustrator’s Exhibtion 13 times and been nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial and the Han Christian Anderson Award, had us all laughing at his deprecating observations (seen here with his translator). 

It’s clear that humour and irony fill his work ­– an inspired artist with a lively and richly fantastical imagination as shown in his story of the boy who wants to meet his neighbour (the longest longest of snakes) and follows the snake coils all through town, until they eventually lead him upstairs to his own bedroom.

Altogether the London Book Fair TAKING WORDS FURTHER was a rich experience of crossing cultures and not only putting ourselves in the shoes of others but also holding up a mirror to our own selves. Marcia Brown, three times winner of the Caldecott who died recently aged 96, said in one of her acceptance speeches. “We need the stranger to understand ourselves.”

With all this in mind I'm putting up a picture book that I wasn't able to read but was drawn to because of the incredible illustrations of the costumes worn on a very small island off Estonia with the artwork drawn to look like embroidery.

Finally to show the universality of stories, because of my own Zeraffa Giraffa who travelled from the Sudan, through Egypt to France and was celebrated in Paris, I'm ending with two giraffe books I found at the Fair. One from Estonia about a giraffe trying to fit into a lift and one from the BIKI Book collection of poems (small books the size of envelopes) from Latvia in a limited edition of 100 titles. 

And two new picture books for me to celebrate this year are:

MY DADDY IS A SILLY MONKEY illustrated by Carol Thompson, published by Otter-Barry Books. (out in May)
THE GLASSMAKER'S DAUGHTER illustrated by Jane Ray, published by Frances Lincoln.
(out in October)


Sue Purkiss said...

Thank you so much for posting this, Di - I love reading your roundups from fairs and so on, and being given a glimpse into beautiful books I didn't know about!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Thanks Sue. Hard to distill the entire Fair In one blog... but hope some essence is there.

Candy Gourlay said...

Thanks so much for posting this, I couldn't find the time to go this year and your round up made my day!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Oh that's great, Candy! Thanks.

Mike Shuttleworth said...

Thanks, some really interesting books and questions here. The Estonian books sound really interesting. The city of Tartu has been striving to become a UNESCO City of Literature - perhaps its children's books are leading the charge.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

That made me Google Tartu immediately and look up all the UNESCO cities of Literature. Fascinating. Thank you!